The Environment Agency’s 'Spotlight on Business Environmental Performance', published today (28 September), gives a mixed account of the part that industry in England and Wales is playing in improving the environment.
The water sector, in common with others, receives both praise and blame. The Agency is pleased to report that the water sector has reduced the number of serious pollution incidents by 23%, but criticises a 12% increase in “relatively minor incidents”, which was “partly due to wet weather”.
The Agency highlights the fact that the water sector was “only responsible for 11 per cent of all water pollution incidents” with industry, agriculture and transport, placed above it in the league table. (Table 2.4.6b. Page 12.)
Water UK sees the 2000 report as evidence of progress. Any serious pollution incident or prosecution is one too many and companies are continuing work to ensure that this year’s improvement is maintained. As the Agency notes, it will help that new infrastructure is coming on stream to replace poor facilities overhanging from decades of under-investment. (Section 3.4. Page 16).
Water UK is pleased that, in addition to the reduction in pollution incidents, the Agency also recognises water companies achievements in the:
• 41% improvement in river water quality since 1990
• 95% bathing water compliance with European standards (the “best ever recorded”)
• 80% reduction of polluting load discharge to sea since 1990
• 55% reduction in polluting load discharge to rivers since 1990.(Section 2.4.6. Page 11)
The Agency’s presentation of the ‘Poor performers league tables’ gives a false and potentially damaging picture of the water sector in comparison with others
(Section 3.8. pp.18-19).
The tables try to compare ‘apples and pears’, but fail to show the real picture. The water industry has as many consented discharges into the rivers as all other industries put together. Despite having to control so many discharges, it still manages to have the best compliance record - bar none.
Water UK says that this is misleading and is already talking to the Agency about its presentation of performance data in the future.
Barrie Clarke , Director of Communication
020 7344 1804 (mobile 07887 991154)